We get Letters – v. 8: How do Rice Cakes hold together

I got a short, but sweet e-mail in my inbox this morning, that I thought I would address.

Why does the rice used in rice cakes stick together?

Thank you


Thank you for the terse e-mail Lowside. I am envious of people who can get directly to the point in their missives. It’s a talent that I obviously lack. For example, it’s taken me 40 words to simply say “Thanks”.

And oddly enough, you’re not the first “lowside” I’ve ever thanked in my life. But that’s a story for another post.

Ahhh… Rice Cakes The ubiquitous product for dieters across the country. Personally, I enjoy mine with several dollops of whipped cream and a bit of caramel sauce.

To answer your question, there’s basically two answers.

Firstly, Many varieties of rice are naturally glutinous. This does not mean they contain ‘gluten’ but rather that they are, by their nature, sticky. More specifically, they have a chemical component known as amylopectin, a naturally occurring polymer. For those of you who may have fallen asleep in Chemistry, polymers are long molecules consisting of structural units and repeating units strung together through chemical bonds.

Puff the rice correctly, and they’ll hold their cohesiveness naturally…excepting for those rice cakes that may need a little help in sticking together. This leads to the second way rice cakes are held together…

…through science! Or, more specifically, through the use of a carbohydrate called maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a moderately sweet polysaccharide produced from corn starch and is usually found as a creamy white hygroscopic powder. It’s a member of the Dextrin family, which are used as water soluble glues, as thickening agents, and as binding agents.

To answer your question, rice cakes are held together naturally, except for when they are not. When they are not, they are held together through maltodextrin.

You can see examples of both of these by checking the ingredient lists of the rice cakes found on the Quaker Rice Cake web page, once again proving that you can find anything on the Internet.

As always, if you have a question you would like answered, e-mail me at kate AT accidentalhedonist DOT com.

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